Homesteading: It’s all about the Location
As much as you may like to, you usually cannot just find a piece of land and start homesteading. Any number of things can stop you from establishing a homestead on a particular piece of property. Some of the considerations may be legal in nature, practical ones, as well as, security concerns.
First Concern: Water
Ideally, the property has a private well, or soon will have one put in by you. Otherwise, you would not actually have control over your water supply. You can divert streams and rivers so pipes carry water to your home, but you do not own the water five or 10 miles upstream, and you may not have the rights to any of the water flowing in rivers and streams nearby. Someone could dam, pollute, or divert any waterway not in your direct control, or the waterway could dry up during a drought as well.
You have to know before buying that your water supply is actually yours. In some areas neighbors actually share water sources, so ask questions, and verify everything with the local regulating authorities thoroughly.
Second Concern: Septic Systems
Do you need a permit to install a septic system? Even though your property is miles from town there may be regulations in place. Each state and most local communities have rules governing the installation of waste management systems (septic tanks).
You have to check first, even though it is your property, and not in town, you still may need a permit and an inspection of the system after it is installed or worked on.
If you are buying property with a system in place, has it been inspected and certified, and if not, why not, or is it even a requirement. In some cases, to even work on the leach fields a permit and follow up inspection is required.
Before you install a septic system a “perk test” is required, and normally this has to be done by a professional and in some cases, the professional is a geologist. A perk test determines the absorption rate of the soil where the system’s leach beds will be installed. The rate must meet certain standards set by the local or state agencies to ensure the soil can suitably absorb the liquid waste from the septic tank.
Third Concern: Energy
Energy would include wood for heating, cooking, and alternative energy sources such as solar, wind and hydro power.
If you plan on burning wood for heat or cooking, what kind of wood is available? A stand of pines is nice to look at, and pine trees do have many practical uses around the homestead, but burning for heat or cooking is not one of the better uses.
Your wood supply must be sufficient for immediate, and for long-term use. You need a plan for renewal and conservation, and this will take some research on the matter.
Is there enough sunlight for solar panels to be installed on the roof, and if not is there a place they can be installed on poles near the home.
Is there room for a wind turbine? The turbines have to be a certain number of feet in the air. Are there trees, buildings and other obstacles that would block the wind? Is there a fast flowing waterway in which you would have rights and access to so you can install hydro generators if needed?
Fourth Concern: Natural Disasters
Is the property in a flood zone? Zones change all the time, and even if not in a so-called flood zone is there a chance the property could be flooded. Again you have to do your research. You cannot take the previous owner’s word for anything. You have to do your due diligence.
Are tornadoes common? A tornado can happen anywhere there are thunderstorms, but how prevalent in the area are they is the question.
Wild fires can happen where droughts occur and there are sufficient dry combustibles in the form of foliage, but they are more common in certain areas of the country, so check the records first.
Research other natural hazards, but keep in mind there is no property immune from natural disasters, but you have to know the frequency of the most common ones so you are better informed to make a decision.
Fifth Concern: Security and Health
People move to rural areas to become more independent, to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, and to get away from people. Even suburban living can make some people feel claustrophobic.
However, being out in the country means you are further away from hospitals, doctor’s offices and from emergency first responders. Police may not even patrol in your area, and only come out when called, and just how long before they do get there if there is an emergency.
Most people realize that when they homestead they also take on the responsibility of their own security, but if someone gets sick how long would you have to wait for help, or how long would it take for you to transport the patient to a hospital yourself.
The above is by no means meant to discourage anyone from becoming less dependent on his or her communities, and local government. However, there are things that must be considered before you decide. Some things you may very well be aware, yet some you may not be.
As always, plan carefully, ask questions, and verify any information you receive.